In The News

Sowing seeds of charity: Twin Lakes Church, Second Harvest Food Bank pair up in novel approach to feed the hungry

October 9, 2010

By Joel Hersch

On a small plot behind Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, Karen Harvey tends to a modest garden of herbs, spices and vegetables. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s what Harvey hopes is the beginning of a whole new way to feed people who can’t afford fresh food.

At the beginning of this past summer, Harvey created a partnership between the nondenominational Twin Lakes Church and Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County that utilizes the church’s land to grow food for the needy. Harvey came up with the idea for what would become Grace’s Garden as part of her graduation project at San Jose State, where the 54-year-old Capitola resident earned her master’s in nutritional science.

The 1,600-square-foot plot doesn’t have the capacity to produce tons of crops, but Harvey’s goal from the start has been to create a model that other churches can replicate, she said. Since she started the garden in late June, Harvey along with a few church volunteers has delivered more than 100 pounds of food to Second Harvest.

“One hundred pounds isn’t that much, really,” she said. “But the whole point is to get other churches to do it, too. If 10 more did it, that turns it into 1,000 pounds, and so on.”

Willy Elliot-McCrea, CEO of Second Harvest, praised Harvey’s effort as a perfect example of an “every little bit counts” ethos.

“Nobody can do a lot with the way the economy is but if everyone does that little bit, it gets the job done,” he said.

He called Harvey’s enthusiasm contagious: “It’s just been incredible. she brings it down to the Food Bank herself and everything’s packed up in Ziplocs and ready to be cooked. Whenever she comes, she’s so full of excitement and enthusiasm and it always makes our day.”

With a background in nutrition, Harvey understands the important roll fresh food plays in people’s health, and she wanted to create something that would help feed people. After doing the research for her project, she was surprised to find it hadn’t been done before. In fact, she believes the Twin Lakes project is the first church garden in the United States to grow food solely to donate.

“This is kind of a natural extension of what the church already does,” said Harvey, who’s not a church member. “Growing food was kind of the next step.”

Second Harvest requested that Harvey plant certain things in the garden and put a high priority on herbs, which, Harvey said, are fairly expensive and are rarely donated. Since Twin Lakes Church has committed to the project for the next five years, Harvey plans to dedicate a section strictly for herbs including marjoram, oregano, basil, cilantro, rosemary and thyme, though she is also growing an assortment of vegetables.

“In the Second Harvest warehouse there are so many canned goods, and it’s great that people are getting fed, but there’s nothing like freshly grown food and herbs to make simple meals so much more delicious and fun,” she said.

The garden is currently tended by Harvey and a few volunteers who make drop-offs to Second Harvest once a week. One of the volunteers even set up a timed irrigation drip system that keep the plants watered, and the church covers the water bill.

“Life is hard for a lot of people right now,” Harvey said. “I love to feed people and this is something that literally spices up their lives.”

Original article: Sowing seeds of charity: Twin Lakes Church, Second Harvest Food Bank pair up in novel approach to feed the hungry